Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.


After my thesis defense last semester, I was asked to define domestication. On the spot I couldn't. 

Further research led me to this wikipedia article: where it discusses domestication as the exertion of control of one group over another for predictable behavior and supply of resources. However, I distinctly remember from my interviews that in terms of plants and food supply, my interviewees recommended that we should be tending the land to some degree and that this is actually what our prehistoric hunter gatherer ancestors did. So here it seems to be important to distinguish between relationships founded on domestication (i.e. farming) and relationships founded on reciprocity. 

But in order to enter into this realm of thought, we have to be willing and able to consider the intrinsic desires of other species. What does a plant want? What will make this non-human animal happy? This was alluded to in one of the TED talks I posted earlier on last semester. But the modern human often finds this mode of thinking absurd. "Plants can't feel. Only humans are privileged to such advancement." People dismiss this mode of thinking as naive or "hippy dippy". What has caused us to actively dismiss the life of the soil and plants and other animals so thoroughly that we also dismiss humans who place value in them? How do we overcome the feelings of discomfort and embarrassment in taking seriously the other life forms that support us? Is it actually hyper-spiritual to consider the emotions of a plant? Or is it a matter of inequity and injustice?

Jenna Witzleben